Contest winner lives out her fantasy as pop star recording in Glen Burnie GLEN BURNIE

February 24, 1993|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Staff Writer

With less bravado than the average rock star, Pamela Oakes accepts a gold record symbolizing the recording she is in the midst of making.

"Ooooh-eee -- I love it!" she exults. "When I sing, it'll probably smash."

She doesn't mean smash hit.

Ms. Oakes acknowledges she is not much of a singer -- other than in the bath and at a few karaoke nights near her native Leeds, England. But for a few days, she is a British pop star in the United States, having won a KLM Royal Dutch Airlines cargo division sweepstakes that allows her to be whatever she wants for a week.

Wannabee Promotions, part of a British entertainment company, arranged everything, from the gaggle of paid groupies that clamored for her autograph when she stepped off the plane Sunday at Baltimore-Washington International Airport to the recording session in a Glen Burnie basement studio.

This is the fantasy of just about every person who has ever crooned in the shower or sung along with the car radio.

"I think everyone wants to be able to sing, don't they?" the 25-year-old air freight office worker says. "Nobody can say I can't be a singer -- I can say, 'Here it is, and doesn't it sound wonderful.' "

Mike Salacuse, engineer at Metro Recording Studios Ltd. on Crain Highway, assures her that with her voice and his 24-track electronic magic, she will sound like a star on the demo tape she is taking home.

Ms. Oakes joins a long list of singers who have come through Joe and Betty Jacobs' studio over 28 years. They range from unknowns making demo tapes to school music groups taping for fun to Johnny "Take This Job and Shove It" Paycheck, whose hairbrush hangs in a frame on the wall. He inadvertently left it there in September 1986.

Wearing headphones and stepping up to a grapefruit-size mike, Ms. Oakes is singing the Gloria Gaynor dance hit of the late '70s, "I Will Survive," to music electronically generated by Mr. Salacuse. She chose that song, she says, because it's easy to sing and she likes it enough to have sung it at home -- despite protests from her husband, Steve, a 24-year-old scaffolder.

During two rehearsals Monday, she starts out standing still, her hands clasped behind her. She wasn't nervous until a few hours earlier, she says.

She giggles as she muffs a few lines, then writes down the words at Mr. Salacuse's urging. He is thrilled that she can carry a tune at all. The luck of the draw, not vocal ability, got her here.

More relaxed after the dry runs, Ms. Oakes swings, sways and taps her feet to the music as she sings the song twice more in a soft and somewhat tentative voice.

"She's getting into it," says Carl Gant, managing partner of Wannabee.

The tape is played back, and Ms. Oakes is delighted. "It's good stuff, isn't it?" she says. She starts counting how many copies she wants made from the master tape -- for herself, her parents, her in-laws, her co-workers, her school chums, her friends. Tour jackets are only for her and her husband.

Mixing -- adjusting voice and instrumental levels -- was done yesterday. As part of the prize package valued at about $15,000, the Oakeses are spending today on a limousine tour of Washington and will be sightseeing in the area for the next three days.

Ms. Oakes won the weeklong trip when her entry was pulled from a sweepstakes hat last December in a United Kingdom promotion for KLM cargo. She and other office workers at Glook Export Freight Services Ltd. sent in the required shipping receipts as a lark last fall. When a KLM cargo worker dressed as a genie arrived to tell her she'd won, she just about fainted.

Metro Recording Studios was picked because Mr. Gant was familiar with Mr. Salacuse and his work.

From Wannabee's perspective, she could have opted for any of about 60 fantasies it offers -- a tiger tamer, a spy, even a playboy.

The company has just launched a promotion for Paramount movie studios' "Fire in the Sky," Mr. Gant said. The winner of the "So You Wannabee an Alien" promotion on the USA and SciFi channels will get a trip to England to visit UFO landing sites and meet with a UFOlogist.

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